Friday, May 27, 2011

The Blessing of Brokenness

I don't know about you, but I've had a rough time here lately emotionally. I've had some relational conflict stuff going on & I don't think anything gets to me more than having unresolved conflict in my life. However, one thing that I've been reminded of lately is

the blessing of brokenness.

What I'm referring to is the sensitivity that comes when you're hurting and choose not to be consumed any longer with self-pity. I'm not saying that it's not valid sometimes, when offenses are made against you, to be hurt and maybe even have the 'right' to be upset. I just think, as believers, that we're called to release those offenses, and by doing so, we give God access to minister to those broken places.

And it's there that He can turn our self-pity into compassion for others - because we can relate to their hurting. Our eyes start to open to others around us that are struggling with the same hurts, and like anyone that has been touched by Jesus, our disease begins to heal, one of mine being blindness. We recognize today what we missed yesterday in our comfortable seclusion, that this world is filled with broken, hurting, lonely people.

I can only speak for myself, but maybe you can relate to my tendency towards oblivion. It's so easy to get caught up in my own little world, even in ministry, and forget that there are people around me that need someone to ask how they are doing - and really mean it. Someone that will ask the question and stand there long enough to get the real response out of them.

It's really not until I need that done for me that I am aware that I can offer that to others. And that it's SO needed.

So, that's what I mean by the blessing of brokenness. When I'm broken, I tend to be more sensitive to the Holy Spirit in ways that I'm not when things are 'good' in my little world. I know that Jesus hurts when I hurt, and I think in the same way, He allows me to hurt with Him for others around me as well - in a very small, minute way, sharing in His suffering (Philippians 3:10).

In times like this, I think about how often I crave comfort and avoid pain, a master at self-protection at times. But I don't realize that the more I avoid some things, the more I desensitize myself to what God would have me open my eyes and heart to, things He's always had His heart and eyes on. What if the very things that I go out of my way to avoid are the same things God intends to use in my life for His purposes, His glory, His renown?

What if the pain has purpose?

What if the brokenness is always a blessing?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

In Honor of Mother's Day

I received this in an email this morning, and loved it. What a message for the many mom's out there, seeking after the Lord on how to raise their kids, yet discouraged and unsure if they are making a difference. Enjoy!


It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the phone and ask to be taken to the store.

Inside I'm thinking, 'Can't you see I'm on the phone?'

Obviously not; no one can see if I'm on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all.

I'm invisible - The Invisible Mom.

Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more.

"Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this?"

Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even a human being. I'm a clock to ask, "What time is it?"

I'm a satellite guide to answer, "What number is the Disney Channel?"

I'm a car to order, "Right around 5:30, please."

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated summa cum laude - but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She's going, she's going, she's gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well.

It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, "I brought you this." It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn't exactly sure why she'd given it to me until I read her inscription:

"To Charlotte, with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees."

In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work: No one can say who built the great cathedrals - we have no record of their names. These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. They made great sacrifices and expected no credit. The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, "Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it."

And the workman replied, "Because God sees."

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, "I see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you've done, no sequin you've sewn on, no cupcake you've baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can't see right now what it will become."

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride.

I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don't want my son to tell the friend he's bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, "My mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table." That would mean I'd built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, "You're gonna love it there."

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot see if we're doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.


I have just recently started an online small group that is reading through Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts.

(For more information on it, check out her website here.)

It's amazing (& I don't use that word lightly, at least not here). It is a very timely read for me - although with the quality of the book, I think it will speak to anyone at any point in their life.

So - I wanted to share a little something that God has been speaking to me about through the book. Without going into too much detail, for those of you that haven't read it, the context to which I'm referring in the excerpt below is that she's talking about making a list of 1,000 things that she is grateful for - that she appreciates and is choosing to thank God for. She refers to this as receiving God's gifts, when we choose to write them down and acknowledge them as from God.

Anyways, at this point in the book, she is just getting started and is realizing that it seems trivial, to write down little things like appreciating the way that the sun reflects off a blade of grass in light of suffering and tragedies in the world, and she starts to question whether or not this will produce in her a thankful heart that can 'give thanks in all things' as we are commanded to do in 1 Thessalonians 5:18. Anyways, she goes on to realize that it's a starting place, & like all things, we have to practice it until it becomes a way of life, until it develops into a lifestyle of gratitude and genuine thankfulness.

This is what I shared with the group today:

I really liked the quote from page 49, "the moving the ink across the page opens the eyes." Have you eyes been opened to things in your life already that you so often miss?

God gave me a neat analogy first thing Tuesday morning to help this hit home with me personally. I'll admit - I was running behind in my reading, due to company being in town & just allowing myself to totally get out of any type of schedule I try to keep - & so I was just finishing up Chapter 3. What Ann talked about regarding practice was really speaking to me.

Because I hadn't started my list yet, I couldn't relate yet to her comment about feeling that it was becoming a little trivial after a while, and her thoughts about whether or not appreciating the little things would ever lead to a life where she could be thankful in the harder tragedies of life. But I will admit that I could relate to her getting to that point. I could totally see myself questioning the effectiveness of all of this after a while...especially because I am inconsistent & I would start to see my old habits of ingratitude coming through.

Anyways, so I really appreciated that she shared that and that she dug deeper to get past it, instead of just giving up like I think I so often do, before I get to the real heart of the lesson God is trying to teach me.

So - I must practice because this isn't something I'm used to and I don't have the muscle strength yet to hold back the criticisms and tendency towards the negative. And God directed my thoughts towards Natalie, my 10 month old daughter, and how in just the past few days, she's starting walking while holding on to a toy push stroller. I thought about how excited she was, so proud of herself - the joy just flowed out of her. And we were standing around her, cheering her on.

And then God brought to mind Hebrews 12:1, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,-"

And how we have a great crowd of witnesses, cheering us as we learn to walk - to stop crawling through our spiritual walk, weighed down by so many things - and learn to stand up and work the muscles required for us to experience the walk, the abundant life, that God intended for us to have through Christ's sacrifice and resurrection! How often do I settle for just crawling through life instead of doing what is required in order to learn to walk - not to mention even run!

And yet God has placed within Natalie, and all of us, this innate desire and knowledge to develop. Jordan and I didn't tell her to start walking - we haven't even really been showing her how. She just knew that there was more than what she was currently experiencing. And spiritually, God has placed in us an innate knowledge that there is more - even if that is now just a whisper because it's been drowned out by this world & deception.

And so Natalie perseveres, even though it's hard for her to stand up and walk, using muscles she's never used before. And she doesn't have the stamina to walk for long - but she gets back up and she tries again later.

Man - what a picture. God sure knows how to get my attention and to speak my language.

And sure enough - I had this great time with God that morning and started my list and was even feeling the joy and excitement that Ann was referring to as she started hers. And then 5 minutes later, I got caught back up in my hurriedness of the morning, & was making negative comments towards my husband about a frustrating situation that was happening. BUT, God in His faithfulness, immediately brought all of this to mind again, and it was like He was saying - 'See - it's going to take practice. That lasted for 5 minutes. We've got to practice to build more stamina.' He knows my tendency to get discouraged and want to give up when I don't see things working. So, I think I will have to cling to Hebrews 12:1 & be reminded that I have my own cheering section in Heaven, & a Savior that daily pleads my case before the throne, to keep me going!

I do love how God speaks to us in ways that He knows are close to our hearts - like the joy I experience for & with my daughter as she's learning new things.

Thank you, Abba Father, for being so personal!